SuperMedia Unveils iPhone App


Another way shoppers can use an iPhone to connect with dealers rolled out Wednesday as SuperMedia revealed that now is available through the Apple App Store.

SuperMedia explained this iPhone app can allow potential buyers to access information about new, used and certified vehicles, compare prices and mileage, locate dealers and map directions, access Carfax Vehicle History Reports and call or send e-mail messages to dealerships directly.

Furthermore, the company pointed out users can search for vehicle information directly at the dealer’s lot by entering a vehicle’s VIN or stock number.

Officials also explained the app includes vehicle value tool that can be used to determine the value of a specific make and model using Black Book data. Shoppers also can choose the app’s specific search option called SuperDeals that list vehicle prices more than $500 below the Black Book value.

Besides the Black Book information, SuperMedia mentioned that its app users can download Carfax reports for free for 90 days.

If a shopper finds a vehicle he likes, site officials indicated he can use the app’s calculator tool to estimate the monthly payment. The approximation comes from entering the vehicle price, down payment, trade-in value, interest rate and number of payments.

Finally, shoppers can use the app to find units that are a part of the SuperGuarantee Autos program. By purchasing and registering a qualified vehicle through the SuperGuarantee Autos program, buyers can receive a free 90-day limited warranty that covers certain repairs, according to officials.

“Bringing to iPhone users allows consumers to have a more convenient and intelligent car-buying experience,” stressed Sandra Crawford Williamson, chief marketing officer for SuperMedia.

“By putting valuable vehicle information in the hands of consumers, we are giving them the power to make an informed decision on the lot while looking at different cars,” Williamson added.

EasyCare Reveals Recent Acquisition

EasyCare revealed a new acquisition this week, announcing that it recently bought technology company CoVideo.
Explaining the services of CoVideo, officials noted that it offers a proprietary format for streaming video e-mail. They said it is easy to use and is designed to allow dealers to connect with current customers, potential customers and employees in an efficient manner.
“We are always looking for opportunities to help our dealers reach their current and potential customers in personal, meaningful ways,” explained EasyCare’s vice president of marketing and customer experience Jennifer Silverberg.
“When customers are sent a video e-mail message, it makes an impression because of the face-to-face interaction and emotion conveyed by a 'real' person,” she continued. “This helps strengthen the bond between the sales or service person at the dealership and the customer even before they ever walk into the dealership, because the customer feels they have already ‘met.’ This process has proven especially effective on getting results on Internet leads.”
Larry Dorfman, EasyCare’s chairman and chief executive officer, added: “CoVideo has developed an application that takes interpersonal communication with the customer to a new level. Whether it is communicating with customers in the dealer’s current database, responding to an Internet request, campaigning for new opportunities in service or sales, or giving the dealer or managers the ability to personally communicate with each other internally, the CoVideo process 'touches' the consumer differently and creates a bond that is stronger than any other we have seen.
“Also, it has created a much better way for us to communicate within our almost 600-person organization and the nearly 2,000 dealers we support with EasyCare benefits and services,” he continued.
Offering his input, CoVideo CEO Ed Mugg noted: “Over our six years in business we have worked with several dealerships and groups and gotten very strong results. We are excited to extend our reach significantly deeper into the automotive category as a part of EasyCare.
“Dealers tell us that they count on EasyCare to bring them innovative solutions that differentiate their dealership and drive customer interest and loyalty, and we’re excited to add CoVideo to the EasyCare package of benefits,” he concluded.

For more information, visit .

Automakers Take Home Report Cards Today from

SANTA MONICA, Calif.  - 
Some automakers received an unexpected early holiday present Wednesday in the form of a high grade from In releasing scorecards on various automakers and brands today, reported that some showed strong improvements over October, while for others, it might feel more like receiving a lump of coal.
The company placed several European companies at the top of the class. Meanwhile, the company seemed to believe that some automakers — most of which are Japanese — still have some homework to do to catch up to their counterparts.
In determining each scorecard, TrueCar evaluated OEMs and individual brands based on eight factors. Among them are sales, incentives, customer loyalty, market share and days in inventory.
Leading the OEMs in November's scorecards was Porsche, which was given an A+. Following it was a trio of European manufacturers, each of which garnered an A, including BMW, Daimler and Jaguar Land Rover.
Conversely, Mazda had the lowest grade of an F, while Saab came in second from the bottom  with a D- and Mitsubishi scored the third-lowest with a D, according to
Compared to October’s grades, Daimler (which earned a C+ the prior month) and Suzuki — which earned a B+ after a D+ in October — showed the most improvement.
The heaviest decreases were demonstrated by Mazda (which recorded a D- in October), and Toyota, which was given a B- in October but received a C- in November from
Continuing on to look at individual brands, Audi, Porsche and Land Rover tied for the best grade, scoring an A+.
Mazda received the worst brand score with an F, and Nissan, Toyota and Saab all tied for second-lowest  with a D-, reported.
“Lower incentive spending and strong transaction prices helped Daimler experience one of the greatest gains in November whereas Porsche claimed the top spot based on an all-around strong performance,” stated Jesse Toprak, TrueCar’s vice president of industry trends and insights. 
“Toyota’s grade decline came from their sub-par retail sales performance, which is still being affected by the recalls,” he added.

Payless Selects AutoCheck as Exclusive History Report Provider


Payless Car Sales revealed this week that Experian Automotive’s AutoCheck is now the exclusive vehicle history report provider for its pre-owned vehicle inventory at stores throughout the country, individual sites and corporate site.

Under this agreement, history reports will be available to customers for free on all pre-owned vehicles at Payless Car Sales franchise dealerships or listed on its websites.

Payless believes the history reports will help shoppers see that Payless Car Sales Certified Pre-Owneds vehicle are free of reported accidents, odometer issues, title brands, frame-damage announcements and more.

“Transparency is a crucial element of building trustworthy customer relationships, and the AutoCheck vehicle history reports provide a level of detail that we believe is the best in the industry,” pointed out Phil Morgan, executive director of Payless Development and U.S. master developer for Payless Car Sales.

“We know that our customers are particularly interested in the most up-to-date accident data, and with the robust accident and frame damage data that Experian Automotive provides, AutoCheck was the clear choice,” Morgan continued. “We are pleased to bring this information to our Certified Pre-Owned program, as well as provide it on all pre-owned vehicles sold through our dealerships in order to protect our customers and increase their confidence with the Payless Car Sales shopping and purchasing process.”

Scott Waldron, president of Experian Automotive, pointed out that “we are excited to bring AutoCheck to Payless Car Sales and its dealer network.

“Every time an automotive dealer commits to using AutoCheck vehicle history reports, they are taking an important step forward for both the buyer and seller,” Waldron went on to say. “The detailed vehicle history information in AutoCheck enhances the credibility of any certified pre-owned program and provides car shoppers with an increased level of confidence that they are buying a quality pre-owned vehicle.”

Chevy Volts Hit the Road to Dealerships This Week


As a charity auction centered on the vehicle wrapped up, General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant shipped out its first batch of Chevrolet Volts this week, units that were destined for customers in California; Texas; Washington, D.C.; and New York.

The automaker expected these vehicles to arrive at dealer lots during the next few days. GM indicated about 160 units rolled out this week.

Earlier this year, GM said it shipped 15 pre-production Chevrolet Volts to technology enthusiasts and electric vehicle advocates. These individuals were the first to experience the Volt every day under real-world conditions during a 90-day vehicle and charging evaluation program.

The manufacturer insisted the heart of the Volt is its Voltec electric propulsion system, which combines battery-only electric driving with an efficient, gas-powered engine giving the vehicle up to 379 total miles of driving before having to recharge the battery or fill up the small gas tank.

GM contends the Volt is the only mass produced U.S.-built electric vehicle.

MotorTrend, Automobile and Green Car Journal each recently selected the Volt as their Cars of the Year. 

“Today is a historic milestone for Chevrolet,” Tony DiSalle, the Chevrolet Volt marketing director declared. “We have redefined automotive transportation with the Volt, and soon the first customers will be able to experience gas-free commuting with the freedom to take an extended trip whenever or wherever they want.”

Chevrolet Volt Charity Auction Generates $225,000

GM also revealed this week that the winning bid for its online charity auction of a Volt came in at $225,000. The automaker plans to announce the auction winner and present the auction proceeds to the Detroit Public Schools Foundation after verifying the final bid.

The vehicle offered in the charity auction was the first Chevrolet Volt available for sale, bearing the vehicle identification number ending in BU100002. The company highlighted that the vehicle features a Viridian Joule exterior, Light Neutral interior with dark accents, Premium Trim Package, Rear Camera and Park Assist Package, and polished wheels.

The auction also included a 240-volt charging station and home installation.

The company indicated all auction proceeds are destined for the foundation’s support of science, technology, engineering and math initiatives for Detroit Public Schools students.

Dealership Leans on Recon, Reputation and Customer Service to Boost Used, CPO Sales

DAYTON, Ohio  - 
When it comes to its commitment to the certified pre-owned market, Voss Chevrolet doesn’t hold back.
The Dayton, Ohio, dealership — which has been involved in the CPO segment “since its inception,” according to Rick Slanker, used-vehicle director for the Voss Auto Network — puts any eligible used General Motors model through the automaker’s certification process.
In other words, if there is a used vehicle in the store’s inventory whose age and mileage meet the certification requirements from General Motors, the dealership certifies it. Voss Chevrolet — which is part of the Ohio-based Voss Auto Network — does not offer non-certified as an option on GM Certified-eligible units.
If a GM vehicle comes in that meets the GM requirements but has mechanical or cosmetic damage that is too cumbersome or expensive to fix, the store will wholesale the vehicle.
“We’re all in with CPO,” Slanker told AuSM in October for a special Used Car Manager section in the Dec. 1 print edition. “If it fits the criteria, we certify it.”
Voss Chevrolet's pre-owned manager Randy Bishop added: “Either consumers can buy it certified from us, or we don’t sell it.”
Granted, if the store receives a used Cadillac it cannot sell it as a certified model, as this brand has its own separate certification process, explained Slanker.
A Chevrolet store can’t certify a Cadillac and a Cadillac store cannot certify a non-Cadillac vehicle, as its CPO program is separate from that of GM Certified Used Vehicles. Instead, Voss Chevrolet will simply sell a Cadillac as a non-certified used model.
The “all-in” strategy appears to be paying off for the store, which averages 140 used-vehicle sales a month, 60 percent of which are certified. The store sells 110 new units a month.
These used numbers are up from a year ago, when Voss Chevrolet was moving 110 used units a month. Meanwhile, CPO penetration has remained rather consistent, coming in about 60 percent to 65 percent for the last five years.
Not only that, as of early November, the dealership had earned the No. 3 ranking for year-to-date CPO sales among all GM Certified Used Vehicles dealers and garnered the praise of GM Certified manager Larry Pryg.
“Ranked third in sales nationally year-to-date, Voss Chevrolet is a great example of a fully committed Certified Used Vehicles dealer,” Pryg told AuSM.
He further noted that Slanker and Bishop “are dedicated to outstanding customer service and we are confident that they will continue to have success.” 
And success in the CPO segment certainly can be extremely beneficial for several aspects of a dealership. Slanker pointed out that “a certified buyer is more likely to be a repeat customer for service and parts, new and certified.”
Market Challenges
While the store certainly has seen success in the used and CPO arenas, it still experiences one of the biggest challenges that many other dealers have been facing in today’s used-vehicle environment: inventory shortage.
In fact, Slanker said the “availability of vehicles is always a concern.”
That said, the store has managed to adapt.
“We’ve had to look at broadening our search,” Bishop said.
One way in which the store has done that is through the Trade-In Marketplace that offers. This service is designed for shoppers interested in trading in their old vehicles with dealers who are looking to bolster their trade-in volume.
Voss Chevrolet is a buying center for the program.
“We’ve had very good success at attracting those customers with those vehicles,” Slanker noted. “It’s just another source of vehicles other than the off-lease or retail marketplace.”
But, as many dealers can attest, it’s not just about finding inventory, but the right inventory and pricing, as well.
To help Voss Chevrolet in that area, the store has turned to FirstLook for inventory management. Slanker had high praise for the service, saying it does a “phenomenal job” helping the dealership ensure its prices are competitive in its area.
He explained that the tool helps the store figure out the best models to have in its inventory, while also pointing out vehicles that don’t move as quickly, “seasonally or annually.”
Slanker said this knowledge has led to the store’s turn rate becoming “substantially quicker.”
Strong Emphasis on Reconditioning
Speaking more about overcoming inventory challenges, Bishop pointed out that the dealership is spending more on reconditioning as well, “to bring (a used vehicle) up to our quality.”
Voss Chevrolet makes reconditioning a major priority. The store strives to make it comprehensive, but also time-efficient.
There is a 117-point inspection process — which will soon be a 172-point inspection, Slanker noted — and everything is done in-house.
“We do everything we can do to streamline that process,” Slanker noted. In fact, Voss Chevrolet aims to have reconditioning completed from start to finish in 72 hours.
Chiming in, Bishop further emphasized just how important reconditioning is to the process of selling vehicles.
“We believe condition is the number one reason someone buys a used car,” Bishop stressed. “So we put a lot of emphasis on reconditioning so it’s one of the nicest used vehicles the customer will find.”
Spreading the Word
Moving on, the Voss Chevrolet managers delved into some of their strategies for getting the word out about their vehicle offerings.
When it comes to marketing, Slanker said it has trimmed its print advertising, while increasing its spending on electronic and online advertising.
“We’re constantly re-evaluating our ad spend,” he noted.
The store advertises on as many outside websites as possible, and also strives to make its own website the cream of the crop.
“We try to stay ahead of everyone as far as having the nicest display,” Bishop shared.
Since the store has been in the certified game for so long, the dealership also gets a lot of repeat business, as these CPO customers “see the value in the certified program,” Bishop noted.
It also helps that the Voss name has a strong and longstanding reputation in the area, so word-of-mouth and referrals boost business, as well. In fact, there are employees who have been with the store for upwards of 39 years, Slanker pointed out.
And it’s no secret that repeat customers and referrals can bear fruit for a dealership’s business.
Bishop further emphasized the importance of putting the customer first.
“It’s more about servicing the customers than the selling the vehicle,” Bishop said. “Give them good quality service and the sale will come.”
So far, that seems to be working for Voss Chevrolet.

Why Do Consumers Shy Away from Certain Vehicles?

When it comes to how reliable consumers view certain brands, a slew of Big 3 and import automakers are showing gains from a year ago, J.D. Power and Associates reported Tuesday in its 2010 Avoider Study.
The study delved into why shoppers either don’t consider a certain vehicle or why they steer clear of certain models altogether.
Overall, J.D. Power found that the No. 1 avoidance reason is exterior styling, with more than a third of consumers (35 percent) citing this as a reason for avoiding a vehicle.
Second on the list is quite simply that the vehicle is too expensive or has too hefty a price tag. Meanwhile, perception of negative reliability comes in at No. 3. Placing fourth and fifth, respectively, are interior styling and consumer's believing the OEM has a bad reputation.
J.D. Power noted that maintenance cost concerns are also quite influential in the premium segment, even though free maintenance is often offered by many premium brands within the original purchase price.
Breaking the data down further, J.D. Power found that the “avoidance rates due to reliability” dropped strongly for the following automakers from a year ago:
—Ford, GMC and Ram
—Korean brands Hyundai and Kia
—Audi, Scion, and Smart.
Ford and Audi also showed progress in this area from a year ago, as well.
“Perceptions about reliability are slow to change, and some brands have a negative consumer perception that is at odds with reality,” explained Kerri Wise, J.D. Power’s director of automotive research.
“However, brands are getting the word out about their actual reliability performance and are slowly but steadily changing perceptions,” Wise suggested.
Continuing on, the company discovered that other factors are playing a role in consumer avoidance as well. Specifically, consumers are apparently putting greater significance on negative past experiences. So an OEM with a perceived negative reputation is likely one consumers will avoid.
However, consumers don't appear to be as worried about particular brands’ futures as they did a year ago when the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler dominated the auto climate, J.D. Power pointed out.
“Recent safety recalls have clearly caused some consumers to be hesitant in considering certain brands,” Wise shared.
“In contrast, consumer concerns about the staying power of some domestic brands have been alleviated — following a swift move through bankruptcy proceedings — and due to the beginnings of a recovery in the automotive market,” Wise added.
Moving along, J.D. Power also discovered that newly redesigned vehicles can lead to a stronger consideration rate from consumers. According to J.D. Power, the consideration levels improved greatly for the redesigned versions of the Cadillac SRX, Ford Taurus and Kia Sorento.
Not only that, but the aforementioned models also beat out the averages for their respective segments, as well.
“A new-model launch or redesign is a manufacturer’s best opportunity to change the perceptions of the past,” Wise noted.
“While most redesigned models have higher consideration than the previous-generation models, some models are far surpassing their predecessors, and in the process, are attracting many additional customers to the brand,” Wise continued.

ADESA Appoints Executive Sales Director

CARMEL, Ind.  - 
ADESA revealed its new executive sales director on Tuesday, and stepping into the role is Kara Paciorek.
The move was immediately effective.
She has been with parent company KAR Auction Services since 2004 and her most recent post was serving as ADESA’s financial controller. Paciorek’s first role with KAR was serving as an Automotive Finance Corp. accounting supervisor.
Her time with KAR has included management roles throughout the company’s business units. Paciorek’s areas of experience include dealer financing, repossessions, title services, vehicle remarketing and vendor management.
“Kara has a unique understanding of the financial side of the business combined with years of relationship-building experience,” said ADESA senior vice president of commercial sales and operations Jeff Bescher, to whom Paciorek reports in her new role.
“Her strong sense of leadership and enthusiasm will serve our team and our customers well,” he added.


Former RSA VP of Business Development Returns to Auto Industry

After six years of managing captive programs for Porsche, Saab and Jaguar at Midland Automotive Finance Corp. (now HSBC), and 11 years as vice president of business development and marketing for Remarketing Services of America (now a part of Fiserv), Cindy Heximer has returned to the auto sector.
In her time with RSA, she sold customized financial outsourced solutions to major banks and lending institutions and created strategic alliances with major banking partners, including six of the top 10 U.S. banks.
In her return to the industry, Heximer’s role is a bit different. She is selling solutions as director of business development for the auto sector at Opera Solutions, a global predictive analytics firm based in Jersey City.
Heximer recently sat down with AuSM to talk about how Opera Solutions is entering the industry.
What made you join a predictive analytics company like Opera?
Opera has created game-changing solutions that can really make a difference in the auto industry. They’ve done profit-enhancing work in so many other industries that I was convinced they could make a big impact in the auto space.
What kinds of services can Opera offer to the auto industry?
We are doing some very exciting, cutting-edge things in the remarketing space.
First, we have our pricing optimization model, which delivers far greater accuracy when predicting each vehicle’s sales price at auction. The increased accuracy is really significant, because it leads to higher confidence in target prices, with less deviation and fewer “no-sales.” Imagine achieving an additional $150 for every car sold at auction, and you can imagine the advantage that Opera can provide.
We deliver these advanced pricing analytics through our Auction Dashboard which runs on an iPad or other tablet computer. Field representatives take the tablets to auctions and the Dashboard dynamically updates pricing information after each vehicle is sold, allowing the reps to manage the overall sale much better. It’s an amazing thing to see in action. Every car to be sold by the representative is pre-loaded, in order of sale that day, taking into account dozens of variables that affect the price of cars. It even captures sales information after every auction and updates pricing targets multiple times each day. 
We also have a sophisticated allocation model that allows finance companies to predict the auction at which a vehicle will sell for the highest price, even after taking into account transportation expenses and depreciation. We use analytics to send the cars to the right auctions at the right times.
Finally, our dynamic management reporting rapidly lets remarketing executives dig deep into the details of vehicle sales and obtain a clear picture of what’s working, what isn’t, and why.  
Where else in the auto space can Opera’s solutions be helpful?
Our offerings in credit risk-underwriting, supply chain, and maximization of incentives, promotion, and marketing spend have tremendous potential for the industry.
Here’s one example: Manufacturers spend millions on incentives each year. Figuring out how best to spend this money is a universal problem and one they struggle with every day. We can help them spend more intelligently to attract the customers most likely to buy their vehicles so they don’t have to employ a “spray and pray” approach. Impacting this expenditure will add big value to the bottom line.
How does using predictive analytics differ from other industry approaches to business?
The sophistication and power of our analytics allows us to target decisions on an individual basis, one customer and one car at a time. We can literally get down to a per-transaction decision point.
Other companies out there offer analytics; auto companies even have in-house analytics teams. What’s different about Opera?
Opera is unique because we’re not just an analytics company. We are a predictive analytics firm, but we’re also a technology company, a consulting company, and an implementation services company all rolled into one. I don’t think there’s another company that can bundle all these services together in any industry, auto manufacturing included. You’d have to go to at least two if not four other companies to get the same combination of services, let alone the expertise to put them all to work.
Opera’s also a nimble company. It’s a very can-do kind of place. That’s just the culture here. It’s a company that prides itself on solving clients’ issues using highly customized solutions that create a measurable impact.
I feel very proud to be representing the company because I know we can deliver on our promises.
For more information on the company, visit .

Ford Credit Gains New CFO

DEARBORN, Mich.  - 
On Tuesday afternoon, Ford revealed the leader who will assume the role of chief financial officer for Ford Motor Credit at the start of 2011 when K.R. Kent moves into the position of executive director of investor relations for Ford.
The captive's new CFO, effective Jan. 1, will be Michael Seneski, whose current post is Ford's controller of global and U.S. marketing and sales.
Seneski has been with the automaker since 1989. His experience with Ford includes an assortment of financial roles in North America and Asia-Pacific. Among those posts are time as vice president and controller at Ford Credit North America and as the automaker’s assistant treasurer.
In his new role, he reports to Ford Credit chairman and chief executive officer Mike Bannister.
“We are pleased to have a finance professional of Michael's caliber as CFO of Ford Credit as we continue our mission of providing financing support for Ford customers and dealers around the world,” said Bannister.
“Michael's knowledge of Ford Credit and treasury will be an asset as we continue to ensure that Ford Credit remains a competitive advantage for Ford Motor Co. going forward,” Bannister added.
As far as Kent’s new position, he will be responsible for heading up the enhancement to Ford’s inventory relations segment. Kent — who will report to Neil Schloss, Ford's vice president and treasurer — is also charged with helping Ford and Ford Credit become more engaged with investment community on the equity and fixed income fronts.
Kent has been with the automaker since 1987 and has worked in several finance roles, as well. Among those are Ford of Europe’s controller for product development and Ford’s assistant treasurer.
“K.R. brings to this new position a deep knowledge of Ford, Ford Credit, the automotive and credit industries, and the global investment community,” stated Ford executive vice president and CFO Lewis Booth.
“As we continue to make progress on our One Ford plan and move toward an investment grade credit rating, we are committed to providing the investment community with authoritative and highly credible insight into our automotive business and Ford Credit,” he added.